On initial appearance, Elif Market International Delicatessen appears like any other small business that sells cigarettes and chewing gums.
But walking further into the narrow shop, on one side, behind the glass displays are a selection of cheese and cold meats ready to be sliced and sold by the kilo. On the other side, shelves are neatly stacked, mainly with imported food products from Turkey, such as canned and vegetables, jars of sauces, and bags of different pulses.
Owner Fevzi Ozdemeir then hands me a six-pack of bar of soap. “It’s from Turkey, and its still handmade using olive oil,” he says, while pointing out the other soaps that are not. “It also smells very good, and can be used to wash your hair if you have dandruff, and can get rid of all of it – no problems.”
Ozdemier, who has been running the store for the last 21 years, said it’s a replica of a delicatessen he owned when he lived in Turkey 40 years ago. But he only opened the store after spending 19 years working at James Hardie, where he started working just five days after arriving in Australia.
“After the factory closed down I started my business because this was the same business from Turkey,” he said. “It was the best job in Australia, but now all the factories have closed down, and that’s not too good for our economy.”
Ozdemier first arrived in Australia as a 26-year-old tourist, but loved it so much he decided to stay.
“It was very funny because my father worked for Air Panama, and he got a free ticket so I can here on a tourist visa, but after that I liked so I decided to stay,” he said, and has since resided in Sydney’s little Turkish community of Auburn.
But for Ozdemier, Auburn has changed — and not for the better. When he first arrived he recalled that unlike today, Auburn was a community of small businesses, but now many have shut down, with Ozdemier blaming the local council for the lack of support.
“In the last five years in Auburn, and every other area, small businesses are finished. Do you know why? It’s all council’s fault because they make it more difficult to park, especially for old people. Parking use to all be free but not anymore; it should be free for five hours at least before they charge money,” he said.
“So I like it this small business, but I can’t see the future.”
Although, until his business becomes unviable, Ozdemier says the shop will keep him busy for now, before he thinks of retirement.
“I can’t just stop. I must do something.”